Sean Macdonald

Australian National University

Final Year LLB (Honours)/BCom student

Internship: June 13-July 15 2016

In June – July 2016 I spent one month interning at the Samoa Law Reform Commission. The Commission was very helpful; they arranged accommodation for me, picked me up from the airport and provided me with a thorough induction.

During the month I helped on a range of projects:

  • Drug Reform – The Commission is looking at the current Narcotics Act and looking at better ways to address drug problems, similar to the global trend of moving away from considering drug abuse as a criminal problem but rather as a health problem. They are also looking into medicinal cannabis and whether it should be legalized.
  • CEDAW – The Commission is looking at the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and seeing how compliant Samoa is. The country is actually quite progressive, in the government departments more than 40% of the higher roles are held by women, more than 30% of CEO’s are women and women can be chiefs in the villages.
  • Pule Fa’aso–The Commission is reviewing the customary village rules, and determining what village laws should be legislated and what safeguards should be in place in chiefs abuse their power.
  • Civil Procedure Rules – The Commission is reviewing the Civil Procedure Rules and how to change them. They are comparing the Australian and New Zealand rules and taking the appropriate elements from each jurisdiction.

The Commission was set up like most law reform commissions – junior legal analysts, senior analysts, principal legal analysts and directors. The projects were requested by the Prime Minister, Parliament or the Attorney General and generally took between 1 – 3 years to complete. The four weeks was too short to get properly involved in a lot of the projects, so I was mainly used to research, explain what was being done in Australia and also to review the Issues Paper and Final Report (essentially providing new eyes).

Everyone at the Commission was friendly, engaging and eager to accommodate me. I was invited to attend meetings with the Attorney General, consultation with the prison wardens, visited the prisons and many more government departments.

Samoa itself is a beautiful place, the locals are so friendly and lifestyle overall is so laid back. I would highly recommend law students apply to intern at the Samoa Law Reform Commission. Learning to work with limited resources, in a different country with different rules is an invaluable experience. And being able to go for a swim with amazing coral and fish, or walk through a jungle straight after work is an amazing experience.